AT&T Home Base is a service supplying voice and Internet access using AT&T’s mobile network, instead of its fixed line network. That might not be too surprising. AT&T has hinted it will do so over the past couple of years.
The catch is where AT&T is doing so, and what it means. Home Bae primarily is being sold “out of market,” in Verizon fixed network territories. In other words, AT&T is using its mobile network to compete with another telco’s fixed network.
Though mobile service providers compete head to head with other mobile service providers all the time, it has not been the established practice for incumbent fixed network service providers to compete with other fixed network providers, using owned facilities. This marks a change.
AT&T Home Base now is available in Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, D.C., all except Kentucky being areas served by Verizon’s fixed line networks.
In other words, AT&T’s third generation and fourth generation networks are the platform for what in an earlier time would have been called an “out of market” assault on Verizon, even though the traditional structure of the landline business, since the AT&T divestiture in 1984, has been based on “exclusive” local service territories.
Critics will argue, with some justification, that mobile broadband, used as a fixed service platform, is not an equivalent offering, especially in terms of price per gigabyte or size of the usage bucket. But customers are smart enough to choose the service that makes most sense, given the actual circumstances of each household’s usage pattern.
The significance is that Long Term Evolution now is being promoted by AT&T as an Internet access enabler, and that LTE also is becoming a way for AT&T to combine with Verizon fixed networks, on a facilities basis, outside of AT&T’s traditional fixed network footprint.
It is a sign of just one more way the communications business is changing. Compettioin between incumbent carriers has been commonplace for some time. But it has not been normal for an incumbent telco to compete outside its core markets with another incumbent telco, using owned facilities.
That line now has been crossed.